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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

GOP Budget Workarounds Raise Ire Of Fiscal Hawks - Some lawmakers say effort to avoid unpopular spending cuts relies on gimmicks


My man (and for the record, I supported and remain a big fan of Harold Ford who lost to Sen. Corker) Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) called a workaround to ease nondefense spending curbs a ‘budget gimmick.’

From The Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—Republican lawmakers’ effort to finalize their first budget agreement in nearly a decade hit a snag Tuesday amid an internal row over whether it relies too heavily on gimmicks to avoid unpopular spending cuts.

The tensions flared into the open when Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) said he hadn’t signed off on the proposal hashed out this week between House and Senate Republicans, who have been working to reconcile separate budget blueprints they passed last month. Republicans want to balance the budget over 10 years, but for the coming fiscal year, that same proposal would increase military spending while avoiding significant efforts to curb entitlements.

“What you are doing here is you’re increasing spending,” said William Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former GOP congressional budget aide.

The struggle underscores the GOP’s challenge in satisfying an unwieldy coalition while controlling both chambers of Congress. Fiscal hawks want a balanced budget while defense hawks have insisted on paring back across-the-board spending curbs agreed to four years ago. Appropriators, meanwhile, could face defections from Republicans when they must specify where to cut funds in bills later this year.

President Barack Obama’s budget in February called for 7% increases in both defense and nondefense spending, which would require legislation to roll back the curbs known as the sequester. His budget appeared crafted to forge a compromise with Republicans over the spending caps, but Republicans instead have agreed to boost the defense budget using a separate emergency war fund that isn’t subject to the across-the-board curbs.

Mr. Corker said Tuesday he was frustrated by a separate workaround to ease nondefense spending curbs by relying on a rule known as Changes in Mandatory Programs, or Chimps.

The budget tool allows lawmakers who pass individual spending bills more breathing room on the spending curbs, and its use has increased sharply since the sequester took effect four years ago.
Using Chimps, appropriators can boost spending if they find offsetting savings in mandatory spending programs, but most of those savings aren’t ultimately realized, making them anathema to fiscal hawks and those who have promised—as Senate Republicans did when they took the gavel on the budget committee—to stop using budget gimmicks.

Passing a budget resolution also would give Republicans the ability to use a tool known as reconciliation, in which legislation can pass Congress with a simple majority.

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